RYAN DAY: Just want to get started here. This weekend our team voted on captains. The team selected seven guys as their captains. Jordan Fuller, Jonathon Cooper, J.K. Dobbins, Chase Young, Tuf Borland, C.J. Saunders and K.J. Hill.
I think they are a great representation of the program. They are a group of guys that I think epitomize what we want an Ohio State football player to be. I think they understand what it means to be a captain. Very, very well-respected, unbelievable group of guys. Really cool. Couple of two-time guys in there.
Also what a great story for C.J. Saunders, somebody who comes in as a walk-on, earns a scholarship, is now a captain. Lifelong dream for him. I’m really proud for him and some of the other guys. Those will be our captains this year.
Also we decided to name Justin the starter for the first game against Florida Atlantic. I think all quarterbacks have done a good job this camp. I met with those guys and told them all that really means is Justin will be taking the first snap on Saturday. Where it goes from there, who knows.
The stories of the national championship team, three quarterbacks playing, everybody has to be ready to go. All guys had good camps, but Justin kind of separated himself the last week. He’ll be the starter.
With that I’ll take any questions.
Q. Is there any particular reason why you didn’t name a starter, just keep it as this is our guy? What was the thought process behind that?
RYAN DAY: I think any time you’re naming a starter, they have to earn it. How do you earn it? You earn it by playing. It’s very hard to earn a job in 15 practices in the spring. Walking into pre-season camp, you don’t just give somebody a job. Never believed in that, never will. You have to earn it.
It’s hard at quarterback. You need reps to really show what you can do. Coming out of the spring, Justine at this point had a good feel for the offense but certainly was nowhere near ready to be the starter for this offense.
After the first week, he really wasn’t there. Made some mistakes, turned the ball over. Right now he’s starting to scratch the surface. I still don’t think he’s where he needs to be. After this week, I think he played at a starter level, earned the job. We’ll see where it goes from there.
Q. When you first took this job, you got Justin. All the things that occurred after that, transfers that ensued, off-season, this competition, when you made that decision, I’m assuming you knew that a lot of that stuff could happen. Where we are today right now, is your plan and that decision working the way you wanted it to?
RYAN DAY: I can’t sit here and say there was one plan. Once Dwayne decided to enter the draft, everything went into a tailspin, really, to be honest with you. That was a very tough situation. You’re talking about somebody who had three years left. He comes for one year and leaves. That affects recruiting. It’s obviously a very sensitive position.
Then the opportunity to go get Justin, we knew who he was in recruiting, had a relationship with he and his dad, his high school coach. When he became available and those conversations were had, we felt like it was a great fit.
So then from there, a lot transpired since then. We tried to do the best we could to put that room together, piece it together. Very unique time and place in college football is the quarterback position. Especially when you have somebody as highly touted as Dwayne leave after his sophomore year, it makes it hard. I think we’ve done an unbelievable job of putting that room together in short order.
Where it goes, the production we get out of the unit is yet to be seen. I feel strong right now. But we’ll see as it goes on.
Q. Where do you stand in terms of the two as backups as you go forward with Justin? How is that situation given the room doesn’t have as much depth as you thought in the spring?
RYAN DAY: I think Gunnar and Chris both bring good skill packages to the table. They both are accurate throwing the ball, got a good feel for anticipation and touch. A little bit more athletic than you think they are.
Like we’ve done in the past, we put the whole offense in, then based on what the quarterback can do, we’ll tailor it to what his skill set is, just like we did with J.T. and with Dwayne, Joe Burrow when he was in there. Now we’ll do the same thing with these guys.
We’ll let these guys keep learning the offense. With Gunnar, we’ve practiced 14 or 15, only been in the offense really 15 practices. So really he’s at where Justin was coming out of the spring. So he’ll keep growing day in and day out. They’ll keep working. As we get closer to the game, we’ll decide if Justin were to come out of the game, who would go in next.
They’re both working hard, improving every day. We’ll kind of put those packages together as we get closer to the game.
Q. Does tailoring an offense get more difficult as you get into the season?
RYAN DAY: Not if you’re organized. I think if you’re just kind of flying by the seat of your pants a little bit, yeah, you can get disorganized quickly. If you can put a package together that best fits what they do, you just practice those type of packages, then I think it’s easier.
Q. You remember way back when when you were named starting quarterback in New Hampshire?
RYAN DAY: I do.
Q. What did it do for you from a confidence standpoint, from a weight-off-your-back standpoint? What changed just a little bit mentally about you from that moment on?
RYAN DAY: It gave me confidence. Yeah, it did. When you go into that first game, you’re not sure what to expect. You really don’t know until somebody plays. I tried to go back on my experiences when I played, trust in my training, trust in my coaching. As long as I took care of the ball, everything would take care of itself. And it did.
But you can’t try to do too much. You can’t try to prove too much. That will be our next conversation when I sit down with Justin is, You can’t go out and try to be what Dwayne was in game one. You can’t be what J.T. Barrett or Braxton Miller was. You have to be you. You have to take care of the ball, you have a good defense, a good group around you, special teams. Just play within yourself and take care of the football.
Q. Without giving away secrets, what is going to be a little bit different about this offense compared to a year ago? What should people anticipate seeing?
RYAN DAY: I mean, it’s going to be very, very similar. His skill set, he has a lot of different things that Dwayne had. He’s a little bit more athletic and faster and stronger. He can run. But it will be very similar. We’ll see the same type of plays. We’re not all of a sudden going to go drastically different.
We’ll probably emphasize some different packages with him. For the most part it will still be the Ohio State offense.
Q. When you talk about Justin earning that first opportunity, it seems like it might be hard to quantify exactly what that means for everybody. How, when, why does that happen? Is it just a feeling? Is it a number that you used? How did you come to that conclusion?
RYAN DAY: Well, you have to prove to your teammates and coaches that you’re worthy of being a starter. A lot comes with that: leadership, ability to control the offense, making checks up front, protection checks, making good reads in the run game, locating the football, taking care of the football. It’s not just going out there and playing, it’s moving the football down the field.
Even in the two scrimmages we had, we had champions, just like we typically do during the season. He graded out champion this last scrimmage. Played really, really well. That’s what it is.
You can see when the guys are around in the huddle, there’s a confidence about him, moving the ball down the field, completion percentages at a certain point. That’s how you earn a starting job.
Q. How did he take the news? He’s been open to this idea of the competition all along. How did he respond? What were the conversations like for the two of you moving forward?
RYAN DAY: As you get to know Justin, he takes it all in stride, doesn’t get too high, too low. I think he knows it’s an opportunity. Now he has to go run with it. I think he envisioned himself being the starter. Now he’s got to go run with it.
Q. Last week you said you thought Justin was coming off a good practice, he was doing a better job throwing the ball on time. Is that an experience thing? Is there something mechanical you had to work on with him?
RYAN DAY: I think it’s a little bit of everything. I think his reads and his eyes have been much better, where he’s going with the football. His timing, understanding the offense, the more reps he gets. I also think he’s getting a better feel for throwing in the pocket.
Mechanically there are a few things that Coach Yurcich has worked on, that Justin has worked on that has closed up a few of his throws. He’s got a strong arm. He’s done a pretty good job with his accuracy the last couple weeks. He can create. He’s very athletic and he can create. When he does create, he has to know when there’s times to take a chance, when there’s times you got to throw it away or eat it. That’s just managing the game, maturity in that position.
Q. Have you decided on the starter at right tackle as well?
RYAN DAY: Those guys are still battling it out. They’re doing a great job. I anticipate both will play. Branden Bowen has probably had the best camp. He’s at a certain level, playing really well. Nick has done a really good job as well. Right now they both deserve to play. Where this week goes, we’ll see. Still another big week for us as we lead into next week and prepare for the game.
Q. Justin is coming in as obviously a very highly rated recruit. The expectations here are so high. He’s only been in the program a short time. What is realistic for him this year?
RYAN DAY: That’s hard. That’s hard. When you say it like that, it makes you think because you’re right, he just got here. The expectations are almost ridiculous. But it’s the same thing as being the head coach at Ohio State. That’s what you signed up for. We’re here for a reason.
If you get caught up in those type of things, you get yourself jammed up. I think he understands that. Again, he always envisioned himself at a school where he’s going to be in a high-profile position.
He was on that QB1 show. He’s been a high-profile recruit. I think he understands what the limelight means. I think he’s always prepared for that. I don’t think this is something that hit on him the last couple months. I think he’s always been ready for the spotlight.
How he handles it, we’ll see. It’s not going to be perfect. There are going to be mistakes along the way. The only way he grows is by failing. I mentioned that before, Dwayne had the opportunity to come in against Illinois, UNLV, throws a pick-six, makes a bunch of mistakes, but it was mop-up time. Nobody was noticing. Justin doesn’t have that luxury.
We’re going to have to manage those situations the best we can, just support him the best we can, move forward.
Q. I’m sure you’re really excited about his potential. Also concerned about the lack of experience. Which is kind of winning out in your mind? Are you more excited about the ceiling?
RYAN DAY: I am. Very, very excited.
Q. When we walk about Justin’s experience, what he did at Georgia last year, the time he had there, how different did that make him than a guy coming out of high school? Is there some value to that or a different system, different school?
RYAN DAY: Another great question. I went home the other night, there was an SEC game on. It was Auburn-Georgia. I think it was at Georgia. I just happened to click it on and start watching it. Quarterback for Georgia was Justin Fields. It caught me off guard. He’s taken snaps in SEC games, SEC environment.
I slept a little better that night because he caught the snap. He didn’t turn the ball over. That was good. That was one in the books (smiling).
That’s very, very different than running a team, managing a team, operating a team. But the good news is he has played in those environments. Any time you’ve taken a snap in those environments, you’ve experienced what it means to play in big-time college football and atmosphere…
A little bit of both. At least he’s got a little bit of a feel for it. At the same time managing a game, making great decisions, playing situational football, making decision, taking care of the ball, putting the team in front of yourself, all those things are going to be critical.
Q. Your general philosophy with the quarterback who does have running ability, what is your comfort level in how many times you want him running the ball in the game? How comfortable are you with him taking hits in the course of a game?
RYAN DAY: I’m not comfortable with him taking a lot of hits in the course of a game, for sure. I think that those are all things that are going to be really calculated down to the last carry. Like you said, because he has such a great skill set, you can do a lot of things with him. You have to be smart with that.
I think the type of runs and the type of ways that he runs with the football are different. There’s certain heavy, heavy runs where he’s going to have to go in there and take shots from linebackers. There’s other ones where he’s squirting out to the sideline, stepping out of bounds.
There has to be times where he has to learn how to run, too. He has to get down. I thought Kyler Murray did a great job of that last year, you saw him kind of squirt out for seven yards, slide, get out of there, he’s okay. There are other times when he is down in the red zone, he’s going to have to lower his shoulder, run the ball well.
That’s all part of the plan here in figuring that out for him. But obviously don’t want to put him at risk.
Q. Is there any recap generally from the scrimmage that you can give, guys who looked good this past weekend?
RYAN DAY: We had probably I think about 10 to 12 champions on both sides of the ball. I thought guys came out and played really, really well. Nothing in particular in terms of like individuals that really stepped up that maybe hadn’t before, without selling somebody short.
But overall it was a good scrimmage. I think the offense and the defense have been getting after each other. It’s been a lot of give-and-take, which has been great.
I will say on offense I think that J.K. Dobbins has really run hard in this camp. He has his pads down, he’s playing with speed. I think that’s significant. I think that on defense we are running to the ball, we’re creating turnovers. The secondary is playing with energy. The defensive line is penetrating. I can feel that. They’re playing with great energy.
Overall I think we got that accomplished. We’re still working to get tough. That’s a daily process, is being tough. But I think we got that done in camp. We got tougher, but we’re not where we need to be.
Q. How did you let the quarterbacks know about your decision? Did you meet with them?
RYAN DAY: I met with them individually last week a little bit, talked about where we were, then met with them as a group.
Q. Today or yesterday?
RYAN DAY: I met with them individually last week, then met with them today as a group.
Q. What message did you convey to them?
RYAN DAY: No, just that all this means is that Justin is taking the first snap in the Florida Atlantic game. Like I said, national championship game, all three guys had to play. We’re going to need guys. Guys have to be prepared, ready to go. If Justin doesn’t do what he’s supposed to do, someone else is going to have an opportunity. That’s all that means right now. But that he earned it, he deserves it, we’re all going to support him.
I don’t really think that we have a backup yet, again, because Gunnar really only had 15 practices under his belt. Still working on trying to see what he’s capable of.
In another two weeks I think we’ll get a better feel for where he is, just like again the first week of pre-season camp, Justin didn’t practice that well. Practice 16 through 20 something, it’s not a lot of practices, not a lot of reps. Gunnar has flashed at times, but still he’s also learning.
Any time you’re doing something where you’re learning it for the first time, it’s hard. I expect those guys to continue to compete with each other.
Q. We talked about backup runningbacks so far during camp. If you had a game later today, who would be your number two tailback?
RYAN DAY: I don’t know. I don’t know. Demario has had a good camp. He’s done some really good things. I think he can really be a weapon for us. Master has practiced a couple days. When he has, he’s looked good. He’s been limited all camp, which is hard. I know frustrating for him. Then the two freshmen have been running hard.
I think there’s a chance you could see them all play right now. I’d say maybe Demario has the leg up on those other guys right now. But they’ll continue to work today. I thought Demario ran better today. Overall he’s doing a good job.
Q. About right tackle, up for grabs. Is there any position that’s still a little bit up for grabs as far as who is going to start, rotation at a certain spot?
RYAN DAY: I think we could see a lot of offensive linemen play. Towards the end of the week, probably have a better idea who those are. We’re going to try to play depth there. We’re going to try to play depth at a lot of positions. The more depth we can play with, the better off and stronger our team is going to be.
Probably by the end of week, we’ll have a better idea of where that is, who really we can say should play in a game. If they deserve to play in a game, we’re going to play them at all positions.
Q. I know you said a couple weeks ago that you kind of felt like four or five is an ideal number for captains. What made you decide to ultimately name seven?
RYAN DAY: Just took a look at the way the vote came in. Pretty strong for these seven guys. There was kind of a gap between seven and eight, nine and ten. I thought all were deserving. I thought it was a good mix of offense and defense. We had seven last year. I thought that was a good fit.
Q. C.J. in particular, when you have a guy who goes from being a walk-on to being a captain, what kind of example does that set?
RYAN DAY: I think it’s unbelievable. You can tell that these guys respect hard work, they respect and really give a lot of credit to the way he’s gone about his work every day, the way he handles himself, his character. C.J. hasn’t played a whole bunch around here. What matters is how he works in the weight room, how he practices, the way he handles himself off the field, the classroom.
Says a lot about our team, that they voted him a captain. That’s all the guys here. Jonathon Cooper, all he does is everything the right way. Really proud of him. He was just raised the right way. Comes to work every day. Has a smile on his face. He’s tough. He will be a great captain as well.
Q. Where is C.J. at in that competition?
RYAN DAY: Right now he’s at the H. Backing up K.J. Jaelen Gill is in the mix right there. He’s had a good camp. A little bit of a situational guy. He’s going to help us on special teams, help us in the pass game a bunch. But he’s tough. He’s got really great short area quickness, good hands. Glad we got him.
Q. Will you ever be a guy that names a starting quarterback for more than just a single game or is that due to the way this situation is playing out? How does that jibe with your philosophy of not having a player be afraid to make mistakes?
RYAN DAY: I think if Dwayne was coming back next year, you’d say he’s the starter until he loses the job. I think when you’re talking about a first-time starter, it’s dangerous to start saying, If he does this, if he does that… you just got to go out and play, take care of the ball.
Again, it was the same situation as we were in last year. It was kind of Dwayne and Joe, Dwayne was ahead of Joe. That was tough. We had to kind of make that call. Then Dwayne had to beat out Tate last pre-season. Went with Dwayne. It went from there.
It’s like anything else, any other position: if guys don’t produce, it’s a performance game. You got to go from there. When you name a starter, you’re trying not to think about those things. You’re trying to think about playing with confidence, being productive, try to think positively that way.
Q. How realistic would it be, given their inexperience, for Chris or Gunnar to overtake Justin by week two or three?
RYAN DAY: It just depends on how he plays. Depends on how he plays. I’m not trying to create a quarterback controversy at all. Trying to just let them play.
Again, you just don’t know. What happens if he rolls ankle in the second play? Heaven forbid. Those things happen. You have to be ready. We’ll take it one play at a time, one week at a time, let it build from there.
Q. How did you deliver the news to the captains? What was C.J.’s response?
RYAN DAY: We did it this morning in an 8:00 meeting. Brought the team in, let them know the results of the voting. Called all seven guys up here, congratulated the team. They did an unbelievable job selecting. I talked to them before about what it means to be an Ohio State captain, the tradition that comes with it, the guys that have come before them.
Also you’re not voting for your best friend or your buddy. You’re voting for somebody that’s going to represent the school, somebody that you respect. I thought they did a great job.
Yeah, brought all seven guys up, congratulated them. I think they were all proud.
Q. Obviously you had seen a lot of tape on Justin before he came here. Obviously you hadn’t worked with him, so you probably weren’t aware of his personality. When you’re factoring he’s going to be a starter, how much is skill level, how much is intangibles?
RYAN DAY: I don’t know if you can put a number on any of what you said. You know it when you see it. The more you’re around quarterbacks, the more you’ve seen different guys, you start to realize everybody has their own style, their own personality, their own leadership, their own skill set.
He brings a unique skill set. I think he does have leadership skills. I think when you walk in, it’s hard to just kind of bang the door down, especially in a program like this where there’s unbelievable guys who put in years worth of work.
I think day in and day out what he’s doing, he’s earning the respect of the guys around him. I’ll be shocked if he’s not a strong leader for us by the end of the season.
Q. Is it harder to project what a player is going to be like as a leader two or three games in than what he’ll be as a quarterback?
RYAN DAY: I think you see the traits. I think with confidence you start to see it. I think if guys are uncomfortable challenging their teammates, don’t do well in front of a group or can’t take command of a group of guys, that’s usually a bad sign. I’ve seen that with Justin, I’ve seen him take control, challenge guys, seen him put his arm around guys. I’ve kind of seen those different qualities about him.
When you see those qualities, with a little bit of confidence, then typically that’s going to go like this. If guys struggle with that, then it’s usually hard.
Q. Do you know where your coaches are going to be stationed?
RYAN DAY: We’re working through that. I think as of right now on offense, Kevin and Mike will be upstairs. On defense, we’re still working through that. I know Jeff wants to be upstairs. Whether Matt Barnes is upstairs or not, we’re still figuring that out. We did have a mock game last week, had Matt upstairs with the special teams. Kind of worked through that a little bit.
I’m kind of very much involved now with the special teams. I’m going to be able to help a little bit. Call plays, it’s going to be hard for me to do a lot of it. Those are the things that we’re working through. We’ll do another mock game this week, probably make a final decision on Saturday.
Q. You led the nation in penalties last year. How much of that has been a focus?
RYAN DAY: Huge. Any time somebody does a false start, they do a lap. We stop practice right then and there and they do a lap. May not seem like a big thing, but they missed the whole periods. It matters now. So far in camp we’ve done a pretty good job.
A lot of it was the false starts, amazingly. Some of them were holding. I know there were other penalties along the way. If we can down on those non-talent ones where it’s just false starts, procedures, illegal motions, any of the presnap stuff, it’s just a matter of us staying disciplined, we’ll be fine.
The effort stuff, sometimes there will be a holding, maybe a late hit, because you’re giving effort. That’s one thing. But the procedural stuff we have to put an end to. That’s been the emphasis in pre-season.
Q. You like your quarterbacks ultra-competitive. I’m curious how the two non-starters took the news. Did you deliver it today? Today I assume they got the news.
RYAN DAY: Yeah.
Q. Was it we saw this coming or could you sense they were ticked off about it because they are competitive?
RYAN DAY: A little bit of both. I think they’ve seen Justin maybe pull away a little bit. At the same time I know they’re competitive and they’re prideful and they want to play. I thought that was good. We’ll see how they respond tomorrow.
Q. In terms of the big plan, you’ve been saying J.K. needs to really get it going early. Do you break the season down into increments, three games, we’re going to do this here until they get their feet wet? Is there a big picture or specific, or you live in the present?
RYAN DAY: Yeah, you got to live in the present. I think the first six games to me is a chunk right there. You have the bye week. You have two games in the middle, then end with the last four games.
I do look at it that way a little bit. Clearly you can’t look ahead. That’s what we’re dealing with. We’re dealing with a six-week kind of season right there, come up for air, two games, go to Northwestern, Wisconsin at home, bye week, stretch in November. Kind of look at it like that. At the same time you have to be 1-0 on Saturday.
Q. Game plan in those increments could change?
RYAN DAY: Oh, for sure. Shoot, we may look different in week two than we look in week one, vice versa. Depends on if they work. If they work, we’ll keep going. If they don’t, we’ll have to change them.
Q. Did everybody get through the last week healthy? Lost anybody?
RYAN DAY: I think the policy is going to be not to talk about injuries. I’ve been really pleased with that. Again, knock on wood, so far this camp has been great.
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